PvP Guide: A Beginner's Guide to Getting Good, Part 3 - How to Play Rift (from Reddit)

Note: This is a post preserved from Reddit for easy access. The contents are the same in both places.

  1. Join game chat. I've advocated this in almost all of the PvP guides, and it's even more true for Iron Banner. Being able to talk to just one or two teammates can make a huge difference in how the game feels, with coordination and organization being significantly easier when you're communicating.
  2. Push towards the center and try to hold it. Defend the lanes and cover the spark. In Rift, the team that controls center wins almost infallibly. To visualize this, imagine that the spark is positioned where the B point of a map would be if you were playing Control, and each team's rift is on either the A or C points. In Control, you like to have part of the team on your home point to defend it and prevent a spawn flip (or they should be pushing the other team's point to try and cause the spawn flip) and the rest of the team goes to B, either to defend or capture it. In Rift, however, everyone should be going to the B point (the Spark, center, whatever you want to call it), and then when you either get the spark or don't everyone should push forward or fall back, depending on whether you are now on attack or defense.

From this point in the early game, things will go one of two ways:

Your team gets center control -

Let's say your team successfully manages to overwhelm the enemy team's initial push, and you now have complete center control. The spark will spawn, and either you or a teammate will be able to pick it up.

If you don't get the spark, but a teammate does, what you have to do is simple: Defend the runner by pushing with or in front of them. You'll need to see which direction they go and then follow them, regardless of whether or not it's the way you think they should go. Protect the spark runner as best you can, regardless of if you think they're going in a bad direction or not. Remember that they get points just for advancing the spark, and even if you disagree with their technique, you need to do your best to help them out. Leaving a spark runner undefended is a sure-fire way to get them overwhelmed.

However, not every blueberry will just run off as soon as they get the spark. If they hesitate, and wait for you to pick a direction to push before following, then that's the all clear to go whichever way you think is best.

Think of the spark runner like the MVP, and they need to be escorted and survive. If they let you pick the route that's perfect, but with randoms it won't always happen. If they go off on their own it's still your responsibility to try your best to protect them. Remember to play the numbers game! A spark runner by himself is vulnerable, but with an escort has a significantly higher chance of surviving.

If you don't score, meaning the spark runner is killed or the timer runs down, and you're still alive, immediately fall back to center and try to set up control again. If you stay overextended, you'll end up flanked and the other team will gain mid-control, which is an easy way to lose.

If you want to be the one who takes the spark, you should probably try to be one of the more mobile subclasses. This means a Blink Warlock or Hunter, a Hunter with Bones of Eao and Better Control, a shade-stepping Nightstalker, or a Titan who can skate, preferably with Twilight Garrison. All these subclasses allow quick, unpredictable movement that makes it much easier to run the spark without getting killed.

If you get the spark, there are a couple basic techniques you can use to try to advance it.

  • Aggressive Push - The technique most often used by inexperienced players, and most likely to succeed against the same. Relies on the opposing team not dropping back to defend their rift quickly enough, so the runner simply pushes past them immediately after picking up the spark. Very high risk, but the reward is an exceedingly quick score. Highly unlikely to work against good players, and if it fails it leaves the running team overextended with little hope of regaining center control.
  • Conservative Push - This is the strategy that, in my opinion, offers the best chance of succeeding when done correctly. Simply put, the runner's teammates form a wall of sorts, pushing in front of the runner, and using the advantage of numbers to obliterate any defenders who stand in the way. A well organized, communicating five-man wall is one of the hardest things to defend in rift, and can generally only be countered by well-used supers, or the defenders throwing everything into the lane that the push is coming from. In order to pull this off, the runner simply hesitates briefly after getting the spark, in order for the teammates to begin the push, and then follows behind. If you're playing with all randoms, the best you can hope for is probably going to be two or three people pushing ahead of you, but it's better than nothing. If you can't get at least that many then one of the other techniques may be better suited. When playing with randoms, a trick I like to use when following behind a two to three man push is to stay out of sight until the last possible minute. This makes the defenders second guess where exactly the runner is, and they're less likely to all-out collapse on the push as quickly as they would if they knew the runner was there.
  • Flanking - A tricky maneuver in which the spark runner takes an indirect path to the opposing teams rift, usually solo and along the outside of the map. Relies on the enemy team being distracted by the runner's teammates pushing from a different direction. Works very well when conservative pushes have been used before it, because, as the enemy team reacts to the perceived push coming from one lane, they'll collapse defenders on that area which leaves alternative lanes unguarded. Be careful when using these, however, as a flanking runner is generally alone or with a single teammate, which means if the initial push isn't successful in distracting the defenders they can easily be out-numbered. These can be set up with or without communication, simply by observing which direction in which the majority of the team goes after picking up the spark, and then going a different way. In order for it to succeed, the enemy team must either not realize it is being flanked, or be so overpowered by the initial push that they can't react to it. Once a flank has been used, it strengthens the power of the conservative push, as the opposing team will be hesitant to pull defenders off of the outer lanes to counter it.
  • Feinting - Starts off as a conservative push and ends as a flank. Basically, you follow the push just long enough for it begin engaging with the defenders, and allow the defenders to see you as part of the push. Once they collapse onto the main push, the runner drops back into an alternate route. This must be done quickly and decisively, or else the defenders will get suspicious that the runner hasn't been seen again and suspect something is up, pulling defenders back and catching the runner undefended. I find this works well with random teammates, as it doesn't require a strong, coordinated push to be successful, and instead works based on the aggressiveness and impatience of the opposing team. However, once it has been used it generally won't be as easy to do a second time.

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TL;DR for Spark Runners - I recommend waiting to see where your teammates push to and then following them. You can start to run off on your own and hope teammates follow you, but with blue-berries it's not a guarantee they will, so I like to hesitate for a moment once I safely have the spark in my control, and take stock of where all my teammates are. If they're mulling around in the center not really going anywhere, try a small forward push and see if anyone follows. With luck at least a few will catch on. If not, then try to use them as distractions and sneak around. One possible opportunity can come when the opposing team overextends in their defense and you can sneak straight though and go directly to the rift, but against good teams this is rare.

Remember that running the spark is all about situational awareness:

  • Do you have a number of teammates with you? Are they following you when you run? Are they leading the way?
  • Where is the enemy positioned? Have they overextended? Have they fallen back? How many men down are they?

You need to ask yourself these questions when you have the spark, and they'll help you decide the right course of action to take.

Here are a couple more random tips that can help you when your team is either in control of mid, or running the spark:

  1. If it's possible, and you are uncontested, dunk the spark backwards for a bonus of 150 points. If you're under fire and can't do that, try sliding, shadestepping, or Titan skating into the rift.
  2. If you have your Super up, let someone else pick up the spark, and use your Super to either defend them or clear the way. Every subclass can be useful in certain situations in Rift. Armor of Light can be used on the Spark itself to make it easier for your team to grab it, or even be placed on the opposing team's rift in order to prevent them from camping it. Blessings of Light is fantastic to place midway down one of the lanes, which can give all members of the push an overshield for the final leg. Stormcaller, Gunslinger, Sunbreaker, and Bladedancer are all fantastic for clearing paths through lanes, and Striker and Voidwalker are great for getting enemies who are grouped up around the rift. Even Sunsinger, the trebuchet of fire, can be used to clear a path as well by consistently flinging grenades to prevent the defenders from organizing where they'd like in a given lane.
  3. If you're sitting on top of the spark waiting for it, hold down the pick-up button as the countdown finishes to grab it slightly faster when it does appear.
  4. If you're ever in the center and you're unsure whether your team will be able to hold it or make a successful push, pick up the spark. Worst case scenario is you'll lose a couple hundred points for your team. If you don't pick it up, and the enemy team does, you could lose a couple thousand. Even if you know you're going to die immediately after getting it, if the alternative is the other team would get it, take it. Keep in mind, this DOES NOT mean run up to it and grab it just because you feel like it, even though your team has solid control and there's an enemy sniper staring at the spark. It just means it's better to pick it up and die than to let the other team get the spark. The team that has more pick-ups, combined with center control, usually wins.

Now, let's say your team doesn't get center control -

Defending is a much simpler business than attacking. If you don't get the spark and the enemy does, immediately fall back to your rift. Pay attention to the areas your teammates are covering, and either provide assistance if all lanes are being watched, or cover a different lane. Noticing where your teammates are and what is left open is immensely helpful in preventing an opposing runner from just waltzing in to score. Six people all staring down one lane doesn't do anything unless the runner is actually there.

As a defender, you should be making the attackers come through the chokepoints, which gives you the advantage even if you're outnumbered. Grenades into chokepoints, supers, and teamshotting can all make it so that two or three people can hold off four or five, which leaves the other defenders free to prevent a flank. When you see your teammates start to engage, be wary of those flanks, but provide as much support as you can, especially if you see the runner start an aggressive push.

One of the biggest issue I see with players new to rift is they overextend on defense, and then fall prey to aggressive pushes. Think of you and your teammates like a net. The farther away you all are from each other, the more spread out you are, and the bigger the gaps in the net that the runner can go through. If you fall back and tighten up, it makes it much less likely that you'll have the runner break through a gap and get to the rift. That's why I say if you don't get the spark, fall back immediately. The worst thing you can do is have the spark runner go straight past you and have to chase him down.

A couple last things for defenders to think about:

  1. Remember that the runner has a time limit. As a defender, if you can hold them off long enough, the game will reveal them for all to see, and then detonate the spark if time runs out.
  2. Also, don't hesitate to use your super to shut down a push or runner. A single kill on a spark runner is basically worth a triple on normal players.